For women there are many adjustments to be made once their baby is born. There are the challenges associated with coping with a new baby and sleep deprivation. There is also the adjustment to a body adjusting to and recovering from nine months of rapid expansion. One of the factors women have to cope with is postnatal bleeding, which can often be a source of great concern.
This is a completely natural event known as lochia. It will happen regardless of whether you delivered your baby naturally or by caesarean section. It is your body’s way of getting rid of excess mucus, placental tissue, and blood after giving birth. It is similar to your menstrual period but it is initially much heavier.
Lochia usually begins in the hours immediately after giving birth and usually continues for two or three weeks. But, in some women it can last for up to six weeks. If you have any concerns, or any of the following symptoms you may wish to contact your health care provider.
- Abnormally heavy bleeding, soaking more than one pad an hour
- Your bleeding is bright red four or more days after birth and does not get better when you lie down and rest
- You are passing large clots.
- You feel dizzy or light-headed.
- Your heartbeat starts to race or become irregular
If you have any of these symptoms you may have a postnatal hemorrhage. This is commonly caused by the uterus not contracting after birth. This allows the uterus to continue bleeding. Family Doctor Duncan Jefferson advises: “Phone calls are cheap and can rapidly help settle any anxiety: they can also help determine whether the patient should be seen straight away, or whether reassurance is in order.” Do not hesitate to call for advice if you have any concerns about your bleeding.
If it is diagnosed as a hemorrhage you will usually be treated in hospital with anti-bleeding medications, uterine massage, or a minor procedure to remove any retained tissue. If bleeding is unresolved a blood transfusion may be necessary. This only occurs in the minority of cases, but it is important you are reassured at all times.
Practical steps women can take to cope with lochia include stocking up on maternity pads before your baby is born. Two or three packs should do. It is crucial you do not use tampons for at least six weeks after pregnancy. Tampons can introduce bacteria in to the vagina and uterus, causing infection.
For any discomfort you may experience associated with this bleeding Dr Jefferson recommends: “Each case is different and patients should follow the advice of their attending obstetrician, however any pain not responding to simple measures of simple analgesia or local heat should be followed up.”
Last Published* December, 2022
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.